Business recovery stories: Fore Adventure
Fore Adventure is an adventure tourism business based in Studland, Dorset, offering a range of activities from kayaking to foraging. It is run by husband and wife team Dan and Jade who used the break in business during COVID-19 to rethink their customer base and product offer. Their nimble approach has allowed the business to emerge from the crisis with new products that appeal to visitors all year round.
Their initiatives included:
1. Maintaining their profile. The team focused on staying connected with customers throughout the lockdown period, many of whom were not able to reach the coast. The team used upbeat messages and images to keep them in touch with what was happening in the natural world. Sourcing a regular flow of great images was key to this, and the whole team were encouraged to take photos on their phones to post on social media.
‘Take advantage of the opportunity to work on - and not just in - the business’.
2. Rethinking the product offer. Once the dust had settled, they used the time to review their existing offer. The whole team was engaged in rethinking the business and were encouraged to consider the entirety of the customer experience. They were aware that potential customers were increasingly focused on health and wellbeing, which led to them expanding their foraging experiences and buying a Citroen H-van to allow them to host more outdoor food events and be more mobile to go further afield. Active networking with local chefs has also resulted in a new business – saeseaweed is a new brand harvesting, processing and selling dried seaweed. The updated range of experiences and products have the added benefit of being less seasonal, allowing staff to be contracted on a more permanent basis.
3. Keeping abreast of changes in the market. The customer groups that emerged post COVID-19 were different to those before, with a new demand emerging from single household customers. The team partnered with surrounding accommodation providers to develop micro-overnight adventures targeted at the specific needs of the staycation market and designed more packages that could be booked as a bespoke adventure for those wanting a private experience.
4. Investing in infrastructure. The pandemic necessitated a review of the way customers book experiences, so a new website was commissioned with a clearer customer offer, a new booking system and better interface that is easier for customers to navigate. The new site and booking system will make their business operations much more efficient.
‘Staff are now solving problems, not revolving them’.
5. Standardising procedures. Walking staff through the customer journey and standardising procedures, especially on arrival and departure, enabled them to maintain a consistent quality experience and meant team members could fill in for each other when needed. A standardised departure process has also made it easier for staff to ask customers to submit a TripAdvisor review, which has the added benefit of making staff feel more valued when mentioned personally.
How other adventure activity providers adapted
Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School, Cornwall
Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School offers lessons for anyone, ‘from absolute beginners to salty seadogs’. The business has faced significant operational challenges during the COVID pandemic; even when it was permitted to open, social distancing and other restrictions meant that it was not possible to offer all of its usual on-water training sessions, including its weekly activities for people with accessibility requirements that are run through its charitable arm, Mylor Sailability. However, regular visitors were still encouraged to visit at the usual time, to help them keep a familiar routine and address any anxiety and other issues they were encountering as a result of the pandemic.
Practical and timing changes made to the sessions to ensure social distancing made for a smoother experience for guests and staff and this is something they’ll keep even after COVID. Owner Tracey has also worked hard during the pandemic to adapt the business’ offer and create an alternative income stream to offset some of the revenue lost through closure, by partnering with another company to convert some of its shore-based training packages (for example in navigation) into online learning courses. This was a big step for a small business, involving a significant amount of resources, but one which will give customers additional choice, particularly when they are not able to get out on the water.
Paddle SUP, Cornwall
The small Paddle SUP Cornwall team (couples Jules and Phil, Claire and Ben) were only six months into their new business when COVID-19 emerged. However, they spent time thinking about how to diversify the product as well as their income streams. This includes catering to different paddler markets: from guided tours to wellbeing sessions to surfing; and for all ages, from local young people to ‘silver SUPers’. They’ve developed a clothing range with graphic art designs by Ben, partnered with social media ambassadors, produced online video lessons on technique and maintenance, introduced a subscription membership scheme and their vouchers proved very popular Christmas presents.
They also focused on building their ‘communities’, by building on their already solid social media following and providing their online audience with tips about where to go, safety briefs, parking, what kit to take, tidal information, wildlife to spot, where to buy equipment and so on, with advice for experienced paddlers who could still go out by themselves during lockdown and for beginners to practice skills on land.